Menards top land bidder for Urbana property

URBANA – Menards spent big money Tuesday on 288 acres of prime commercial land in east Urbana, much of it along Illinois 130.

The Eau Claire, Wis.-based home improvement retailer bid $14,700 per acre for the property, which, when combined with a 5 percent premium for the real estate commission, came to a total winning price of $4.45 million.

Menards beat out competing bids by Adolph and Renee Lo of Champaign and Urbana developer Paul Tatman. A closing on the deal is scheduled for Dec. 6.

The much-anticipated auction of the Pfeffer heir property was held at Kennedy's at Stone Creek, 2560 S. Stone Creek Blvd., U.

Marv Prochaska, vice president of real estate for Menards, said the company was "possibly" interested in building a second local home improvement supercenter in Urbana. The company has a store in Champaign, at 620 W. Town Center Blvd.

Prochaska indicated Menards would likely sell much of the land to other interested developers over time and would keep any land that it wanted for a store.

"We don't buy much by auction, but we own a lot of land," he said. "We own land in 10 states."

Prochaska said he couldn't give a timetable for when Menards might start construction in Urbana.

A 78-acre rectangular tract of land just south of the Wal-Mart Supercenter now under construction near the corner of Illinois 130 and U.S. 150 was considered the most desirable piece of commercial property. The 288 acres was divided into four tracts at the auction, but Menards bid and won in a combined purchase.

Urbana city officials were delighted to learn that Menards is buying the property.

"This is a good day for Urbana," said Urbana Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Walden. "We look forward to working with them to develop this key corridor in Urbana."

Walden confirmed that it appears Menards is interested in building a supercenter in Urbana and then acting as developer on the rest of the property.

"It's our prime growth area for new commercial and residential development," said Libby Tyler, Urbana's director of Community Development Services. "It's a great outcome because it will lead to the development of the land to its highest and best use. It's positive for Urbana residents."

Tatman, who dropped out of the bidding at $12,000 per acre, said he might later attempt to buy some of the property from Menards. He said Menards officials indicated to him that they wanted to keep 40 to 50 acres for their own use.

Tatman said he had interest in Tract 2, which is west of Illinois 130 and north of Washington Street and covers 17.9 acres.

Tract 3 covers 152.5 acres and is west of Illinois 130 and north of Florida Avenue extended. It is the widest lot and probably will be at least partially developed for residential uses.

Tract 4 covers 40 acres and is on the south side of the planned Florida Avenue extension. It does not have frontage along Illinois 130.

There were several bidders at the start, but bidding eventually narrowed to the Los, Tatman and Menards. In the end, the Los and Menards were the final two bidders and they both bid aggressively.

The property in question was once owned by the late George and Delia Pfeffer. Seven descendants of the Pfeffers inherited the property, and three of them brought a partition action in Champaign County Circuit Court to have the land auctioned off, with the proceeds to be divided according to their ownership interest.

One of the heirs, Louise Pfeffer Johnson of St. Charles, said she was pleased with the sale price.

"I thought it turned out OK," she said. "It was awful slow at the start, but it turned out OK."

Johnson said the construction of the nearby Wal-Mart Supercenter definitely helped increase the value of the land.

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